Humanitarian agencies call for Parliament to show global leadership and push for a ceasefire in Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel

30 Jan 2024 by World Vision
Humanitarian agencies call for Parliament to show global leadership and push for a ceasefire in Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel

More than a dozen New Zealand humanitarian organisations are calling for Parliament’s first order of business for 2024 on Tuesday January 30 to be a strong demonstration of global leadership for an immediate and sustainable ceasefire and a credible solution to the conflict in the Middle East that prioritises lasting peace.

The coalition of organisations says New Zealand needs to leverage its international standing and push for an end to the conflict; humanitarian access to Gaza; a commitment for all parties to abide by international humanitarian law; and to protect civilians, especially children.

World Vision New Zealand National Director, Grant Bayldon, says the crisis in the Middle East is a tragedy that is worsening as time goes on and politicians need to do more than just issue statements.

“More than 10,000 children have been killed in Gaza in just over three months – it’s unbearable to even think about, but we must be spurred into action by these horrific statistics because these are human lives – sons and daughters, brothers and sisters.

“We fear the world has lost sight of its responsibility to ensure the most fundamental rights of all children are respected. At this point, we are far beyond the point of condolences and polite pleas; our politicians can, should, and must do more,” he says.

Access to Gaza is still heavily restricted and aid agencies have been rendered powerless. There are critical shortages of medicine, water, fuel and food. In the north, there is no access to clean water and thousands are on the brink of starvation.

Children are at risk of dying not only from bombings, but from dehydration, starvation, and disease as food and clean water supplies run low and as the accumulation of human waste creates a breeding ground for cholera and disease.

New Zealand humanitarian organisations have partners in and around Gaza desperate to deliver aid to children and adults who are suffering, but they need the Government to advocate for access so they can reach affected communities.

ChildFund New Zealand CEO, Josie Pagani, says New Zealand is a trusted partner internationally and its voice holds weight.

“New Zealand has often punched above its weight in international politics and this has resulted in strong wins through diplomacy and advocacy. We must leverage these skills now so that a long-term solution for peace can be found.”

The Executive Director of the Council for International Development Aotearoa New Zealand, Peter Rudd, says New Zealand has a responsibility to demand that the tenets of international law are followed.

“Our politicians must declare that all indiscriminate bombing and targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure is never justifiable. All parties must respect international law and cease their attacks on civilians,” he says.

As the humanitarian crisis worsens, the number of hospitals partially able to operate has dropped from 36 to 16.

UNICEF Aotearoa CEO, Michelle Sharp, says New Zealand’s initial $10million contribution to the humanitarian crisis is a start, but more than money is needed.

“Much more than humanitarian aid funding is required to meet urgent medical needs and provide essential items like food and water. We need our government to work at a global level to secure humanitarian access so that we can reach those in desperate need,” she says.

Save the Children CEO Heidi Coetzee agrees and says we cannot begin 2024 without strong action to make a sustainable ceasefire and a comprehensive humanitarian response a reality.

“Let's not just talk about the need for a ceasefire. Our government must turn talk into action and commit to doing all they can to help end this horror and get the desperately needed aid into Gaza,” she says.

Tearfund New Zealand CEO Ian McInnes urges the Government to immediately implement the six key actions identified by NZ humanitarian organisations as critical.

“The scale of death and destruction is too much. More than 25,000 people have been killed and 63,000 injured. The time for action is now!” he says.

The key actions outlined by New Zealand humanitarian organisations for the New Zealand Government to implement are:
  1. Mobilise the international community to demand an immediate sustainable ceasefire and therefore a permanent end to conflict. Strengthen global support for a lasting solution to the conflict that prioritises peace.
  2. Employ all diplomatic means to insist that international humanitarian law is upheld, and that all civilians are protected. Nearly half of Gaza’s population (41%) are under the age of 15, and nearly 10,000 children are estimated to have been killed so far in the conflict. Civilians also need to be protected from further displacement.
  3. Put pressure on the international community to ensure humanitarian access into Gaza at all crossings. Safe and unimpeded humanitarian access is required to provide supplies such as food, water and medicine that will save lives and prevent further deterioration of the humanitarian crisis.
  4. Engage the international community to demand the immediate, safe and unconditional release of all hostages, especially abducted children, and the prevention and end to any grave violations against children, including killing and injuring.
  5. Pressure the international community to ensure “safe zones” are truly safe. There is significant risk for displaced children and adults who are being funnelled into unilaterally established ‘safe zones’ in Gaza that do not meet the requirements of a safe zone. Without the right conditions, including the agreement of all parties, provision of survival essentials, and free and voluntary movement, concentrating civilians in such zones can raise the risk of attack and large-scale loss of life.
  6. Increase New Zealand’s humanitarian aid support. The New Zealand public is giving generously to the NGO community’s public appeals, but further Government support is desperately needed to provide essential supplies.